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Kent Twitchell Honors Ed Ruscha in “The Man Who Paints Giants”

In the late 1970s, celebrated muralist Kent Twitchell began his famous artists series, featured in Hi-Fructose Vol. 37, starting with notable Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha. Measuring 70 feet tall on the side of a downtown building, Twitchell's full-length portrait of the artist in a red silk shirt and pleated slacks took almost 9 years to complete because it was self-funded and there were other projects that came to him during that time. Why did he choose Ruscha as his first artist? "It was a gut decision," he says. "He was and is unique and seemed to characterize the American Individualist to me as McQueen did in the film world."

In the late 1970s, celebrated muralist Kent Twitchell began his famous artists series, featured in Hi-Fructose Vol. 37, starting with notable Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha. Measuring 70 feet tall on the side of a downtown building, Twitchell’s full-length portrait of the artist in a red silk shirt and pleated slacks took almost 9 years to complete because it was self-funded and there were other projects that came to him during that time. Why did he choose Ruscha as his first artist? “It was a gut decision,” he says. “He was and is unique and seemed to characterize the American Individualist to me as McQueen did in the film world.”

Ruscha is an honored figure in Twitchell’s current show at LAM Gallery in Los Angeles, aptly titled “The Man Who Paints Giants” for his expansive career of creating monumental portraits. In addition to new works and studies, the exhibit features a portion of Twitchell’s “Return of Ed Ruscha Monument”, based on his “Ed Ruscha Monument” which he is revisiting after its removal in 2006. Upon completion, the new mural will be permanently on view at the American Hotel in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. It isn’t the first time that one of Twitchell’s murals have been revisited- last October, the artist restored his landmark “Freeway Lady” which was erased by a billboard company.


Kent Twitchell’s original “Ed Ruscha Monument” mural in progress.

As with his “Freeway Lady”, Twitchell takes little interest in simply making a new copy of his now thirty year-old work. Based on the studies in his exhibit, the mural’s revival offers an updated depiction featuring the now much older Ruscha: “I’ve been wanting to replace it since the day it was destroyed. I decided to repaint him the way he looks today. He was an icon then, and he really is now,” Twitchell has said. “We lose so many things, like trees and buildings. To have something from our past, that began to mean something to us in the city, come back and be appreciated- it’s kind of a magical thing.”

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